August Miscellany 2016

We didn’t do much outdoor stuff this month surprisingly: Husband is busy with his DIY project, I’m occupied with my magazine project.

In the Making of a Magazine

This is the “sprinting” stage of my magazine production. Emails from contributors arrived every day with essays and photos. A lot of the contents moved into their pages. To finish the last and biggest feature, I have been running around (physically and virtually) like a headless chicken, in the process bothering a lot of people. I had some crash courses in Illustrator and InDesign  from my wonderful illustrator and from Youtube and managed to produce a beautiful graph. The first “final” version was printed out for the first time on 28 August.The first proofreading is done. It was so exciting to hold it in hand. Thank you to all my contributors, informants and friends for being supportive, patient and trusting! The boss closed one eye to my spilling content onto extra pages, but limited it to 32 page in total. I don’t completely agree with him about the thickness of the magazine, but I’m happy to listen and compromise. The launch date is decided to be on the International Welcome Service on 2 October. God willing there will be a magazine soon!

front-cover-mountains
Above: The final front cover, voted by readers. Below: Other front cover options

Reading

The days are getting shorter and colder as if to say, it’s time to stop being in holiday mode and start working hard again. It’s time to read read read!

Not So Secret is a book written by a British missionary who worked in Japan. I was once told if you’re going to do church work in Japan, read every book about Japan that you can get your hands on as part of the preparation because it was such a different nation with fascinating culture. I’m not going to do church work there. I’m just reading every book about Japan that I can get my hands on… I personally think it would be a very frustrating people to tell gospel to because I find it really hard to understand what they’re really thinking inside. Read my full review here.

Redeeming Love is a novel based on the Book of Hosea in the Old Testament by a Christian author. It was lent to me by a friend. I have been reading it at my breaks at work and other small chunks of time every day, instead of swiping my phone, which means it’s gripping at least. I can even see myself in it. I’m half way of the book. Will do a full review soon. (Read here.)

Folding BeijingFolding Beijing was mentioned in a social media post with the title of “winning 2016 Hugo Awards Best Novelette”. I was really excited and marked the post straightaway. After the Three Bodies trilogy, here is another Chinese Science Fiction novel given one of the most prestigious science fiction awards; the Hugo Awards, termed “among the highest honours bestowed in science fiction and fantasy writing”. The novel entered the Hugo Awards long list because of the recommendation by Liu Cixin, the author of wonderful Three Bodies trilogy. The author was a young woman, about  my age, called Hao Jingfang. I set to read it immediately. It wasn’t very long. I was slightly disappointed.

Firstly, the “science” side of things is a bit hurried and half-hearted. The “folding” mechanism of Beijing is a bit vague and confusing. It forms the setting of the story but it’s not essential. I can see three societies with three classes without the need of “folding” the city, normal form of travel / transport for example, would make it possible. Just take a few metros from central Beijing, to the third ring road, then to the six ring road, which I did often. Secondly, the social problem of “unequal-ness” is not a new topic. It’s very “real life”, like reading social page of a newspaper. Maybe that’s why judges of Hugo Awards like it? This is just my opinion as a reader. I’m very happy for her and for Chinese Science Fiction, which is definitely attracting more attention from writers and readers alike. Maybe soon, Chinese literature can boast not only about history but also about future.

So you want to publish a magazine?So You Want To Publish An Magazine? has been really helpful leading to the printing of the first issue our magazine, Journey. It’s full of useful information and inspiring interviews with people in this industry. I also like books that draw my pencil onto its blank spaces – it really gives me a lot of ideas. More thoughts on this one soon.

Thunderstorm is a Chinese theatre play written in 1933 by a famous Chinese playwright called Cao Yu. It was termed as “the mark of maturity of Chinese modern theatre”. I’m no expert in theatre plays at all. But this reads really unnaturally to me: the characters, the story line, and the dialogue. It’s like drama for drama’s sake. In comparison, Tea House by Lao She which first appeared in 1956 still makes my heart heavy and brings tears to my eyes.

Thanks to one of my traveling friends, I received a Chinese copy of The Four Books from Taiwan. It’s one of the six shortlisted books for this year’s Man Booker International prize. It’s about one of the dark periods of Chinese history. Apart from that, I have no idea what it’s about. A work colleague ordered an English copy straightaway. It looks like we’re starting a reading club.

Drift

Drift was sent from STACK. It’s really thick and really neat. I love the front cover image and the feeling of the paper. It has a velvet lamination, which is a first for me. I want velvet lamination for my magazine too!

I was delighted to pick up this magazine in my office “waste” pile. San Lian is a Chinese magazine that has a good image in my heart. If I could subscribe to only one magazine from China, this would be the one. (The fact is I’m not subscribing to ANY Chinese magazine.) Summer is the so-called silly season where the media has nothing to report because all the trouble-makers are on holiday. San Lian uses its summer issue to shine a spotlight on reading. It’s titled as “Summer Reading: Another Entrance to the World”. It includes many articles from writers, translators and literary people, talking about personal stories related to reading, focusing on different books and authors around the world. There are book recommendations at the end of each article. The July issue of this Chinese magazine travelled land and sea, and came to me in September in the UK. Maybe we can do a “reading” issue for next summer too?

I know it looks like cheating to list IKEA catalogue here. But I actually did read it! 2017 catalogue includes a few long-ish articles on the definition of home, company culture, the research and development of new materials, new machinery and technology,  their famous flat-pack etc. I really like some of them. There was a funny incident: One day there was a knock on the door and a lady asked if I received an IKEA catalogue and how long I kept it for (I couldn’t believe she asked “One month? One week? Already in the bin?” In the bin?! Never!). I was delighted that someone was interested in my enthusiasm in it, so I said, yes yes I did receive it and I love it, I keep it forever! She didn’t look very impressed.

Watching TV

I haven’t finished The Disguiser but I started to watch another historical drama called The Empress of China. It’s a story of Wu Meiniang, who rose from concubine to an Empress of the Tang dynasty and later on China’s only female Emperor in history. It first occupied International headlines and people’s after-dinner chats because of Chinese censorship over the cleavage shots… It’s really something that such an over-familiar historic story can be re-made successfully. I personally like TV dramas with beautiful girls, especially if they’re wearing amazing costumes.

The annual event – the Great British Bake Off started in the last week of this month. But because of the new law on TV license, I have missed a couple already.

If you’ve been reading my monthly Miscellany for a while, you’d remember my favourite radio programme ended early on this year. I have been wondering what the two DJs are doing. The answers were revealed this month. I remember they were both very modest about their appearance and preferred the form of radio because listeners don’t get disappointed with how they look. They must have got more confident over the years. They are both doing online TV programmes!

Xiaofei - Shops & Markets

Zhou is doing a sort of food programme which I haven’t watched because the idea sounds bizarre and boring. It sounds like she knocks on a random applicant’s door on Saturday evening and stays for a free meal.

However, I have watched two episodes of Xiao Fei’s programme. He is visiting second-hand shops, vintage markets and private collections around the world (in Japan at the moment) and buy old stuff to bring home. Even before he started this programme, he had a good system of logic and theories for collecting “things that no one wants”. He said, “Classic design. Practical. Inexpensive.” Now going to markets and buying “junk” has become his job. Lucky man! He has been buying old guitars and vinyls, chatting with skilful but unknown Japanese musicians, shop owners and collectors, showing us a fascinating new world. I have tried putting my fingers on a couple of guitars. But I don’t think I’ll be any good. It’s too painful!

Wedding Anniversary

Husband planned a few surprises for our five year wedding anniversary. One of them was watching a play in Newcastle Theatre Royal, No Man’s Land. I couldn’t understand the jokes much, but after checking on Wikipedia, I found out that I didn’t miss much of the plot.

No Man's Land

The strongest feeling the play left me with was loneliness. This was what I wrote the night when I got home:

“Maybe because the conversation is about old age between old men. Maybe because the setting is mostly a cold blue with no natural light. Compared to Phantom of the Opera, where I was tearful because of how glamorous it was, when the four actors bowed to the audience at the end, I suddenly felt really sad and lonely.”

Best thing of all, it was amazing to see great British actors face to face! I’m not a fan strictly speaking. (When we got to Theatre Royal, my husband pointed to a poster and asked if I recognised them. “Dumbledore! Not Dumbledore? Gandalf? Gandalf! The other one? No idea.”) But I respect and admire them doing one thing excellently with all of their life.

The second day, as part two of the wedding anniversary celebration, we visited York where husband proposed. There were some last minute panicking, just to remind me this disorganised man I married to hasn’t changed much!

Gardens

My garden has mostly taken care of itself this month. I didn’t do much to it at all. The “naturalistic” perennial / ornamental grass garden is already working. We visited a garden set in Northern England this month. Scampston Walled Garden is designed by influential Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. My garden is an incompetent copy of his works. It was a lovely place, having different feeling in different areas. I’ll put more photos in a separate post soon.

Scampston Walled Garden

With Friends

Heather on North York Moor
Driving through North York Moors. Heather was painting the whole moorland pink.

We met up with friends who used to live in Newcastle, Wenshi & Paul, Pete & Shaz in Yorkshire. It was probably not the correct criteria to assess a day with friends with the word “efficient”, but it was. We took Wenshi and Paul to a lavender farm in the afternoon and had a chat there. After dropping them in Scarborough, we went to stay with Pete and Shaz for the night. The freedom that comes with a car (which we rented for the day)!

A friend from Taiwan came for dinner one Thursday evening with his home-brewed beers. This young man studies agriculture and is actually working his plan out step by step, having a semi-organic farm in Taiwan. A brewery will be the latest addition to his farm when he finishes the course. It’s great to see someone who is passionate about his subject and is applying it successfully in real life.

A few more friends who were leaving Newcastle came for dinner Saturday the same week. International students come and go every year. The new academic term is starting soon.

Outdoor Stuff

Newcastle bridgesThe only outdoorsy stuff we did was a short cycle trip to Wylam. It was supposed to be short – Google Maps said it would take 2 hours return. It took us 6 hours! It was such a relief to finally see the bridges on the way back.

For walking and camping, August is not the best month in my opinion – too many people, too many midges. So what I preferred to do was to read Wainwright books and spread OS maps on the table! If the weather’s for us, we’ll be meeting the highest summit in England soon.

Miscellany of Miscellany

At the end of August, there was one particularly cold morning when I cycled to work. It was definitely the smell and feeling of winter. Winter is coming (Wait! Game of Thrones??).

Brush lettering is HARDER than I imagined definitely. I underestimated it because brush pens are for children… I’m so sorry.

I’m slightly looking forward to cold weather, when I can wrap up and stay in my dim little study, watching TV dramas and doing some crochet. But for now, a whole new term is coming with new challenges ahead, not least the launching of Journey magazine!

 

 

 

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2 Comments

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  1. I love your writing style, very enjoyable to read and really easy to relate to.
    I look forward to spending the time to exploring more pages, as I’m currently reading this due to a thunder storm waking me up in the middle of the night.
    Great detail and really interesting too! Just lovely :-)

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